The Lapis Gates of Sumer

Intro to Sumer

The Gods

The Texts

Sumerian Calendar

Ancient Rites



The limestone plaque containing this inscription was purchased in 1933 in Arslan Tash, the ancient Hadattu. At the time, two such plaques were obtained but only one has been published so far. The language of the inscription is an undetermined Canaanite dialect; the writing is of an Aramaic type. It would seem to date from the seventh century b.c. According to the interpretation presented below, we have here the text of an incantation named after a certain Ssm, possibly a mythological being of Anatolian (or Egyptian) provenance but not a full-fledged god such as is pictured on the reverse of the plaque. The incantation is directed against the winged sphinx and the she-wolf devouring a human being, both pictured on the obverse and collectively called the "stranglers," that is, female demons supposed to cause the death of infants and children. It may have been intended to facilitate childbirth and to make sure that the newborn infant would not fall prey to the "stranglers." However, the reading of the crucial passage at the end which is often translated: "May her womb be opened and may she give birth! . . . When the sun rises, travail and give birth!," is based upon the doubtful reconstruction of missing words and upon an uncertain and, it seems, unwarranted emendation of what is actually written.

An incantation for the female flying demon. The "bond" of Ssm, the son of Pdrsh (?).

"Take these and say to the strangling females: The house I enter you shall not enter, and the courtyard I tread you shall not tread. An eternal bond has been established for us. Ashshur has established (it) for us, and all the divine beings and the majority of the group of all the holy ones, through the bond of heaven and earth for ever, through the bond of Ba'l, the lord of the earth, through the bond of the wife of Hawron, whose utterance is pure, and her seven co-wives and the eight wives of Ba'l . . . .

(On the sphinx:) To the female demon that flies in the dark chamber (say): Pass by, time and again, Lili(t)!

(On the she-wolf:) To the robbing, slaying female (say): Go away!

(On and around the deity:) Sz zt, may his mouth not (?) open . .. . Let the sun rise, eternally, eternally!
The Amulet from Arslan Tash
Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament edited by James B. Pritchard, 3rd ed. 1969 Princeton University Press